Thursday, March 28, 2019

BEQ 2:25 (Andy) 


LAT 4:17 (GRAB) 


NYT 9:25 (Ben) 


WSJ 8:59 (Jim P) 


Universal 8:51 (Vic) 


Fireball 6:39 (AL) (Jenni) 


Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Jump Shot” — Jim P’s review

I didn’t see the byline before I started solving, but by the time I sorted out the first theme answer, I knew whose it was. And if you’ve followed this blog for a while, you recognized the theme type as well.

The theme consists of four phrases whose first or last few letters comprise a word that roughly means [Shot]. Each “shot” word is separated from the main phrase by a block which you have to “jump”over to complete the phrase, hence the title. In each case, the “shot” word employs a different meaning.

WSJ – Thu., 3.28.19 – “Jump Shot” by Mike Shenk

  • 17a [Gift list, of a sort] / 19a BRIDAL REGIS / TRY. “Shot” = “attempt.”
  • 27a / 30a [Conjectural statementsHYPO / THETICALS. “Shot” = “injection.”
  • 44a [Question from the judge] / 47a HOW DO YOU P / LEAD? “Shot” = “ammunition.”
  • 57a / 58a [Words to one facing two unpleasant choicesPIC / K YOUR POISON. “Shot” = “photo.” I love the base phrase here.

This works well. The title makes for a reasonable conceit and the usage of four different meanings for “shot” is elegant. The base phrases are all solidly in the language as well.

A lot of good fill here today. Opera buffs get LEONTYNE Price (I figured the clue [Price of opera recordings] was going for a name, but I still needed most of the crossings). Basketball fans get James NAISMITH (again, most of the crossings). On the easier side, there’s EXTRA LARGE, PERIODICAL, HEXAGON, CHEEKY, “ALL RISE,” and SODA POP which I think we saw only just last week.

Clues of note:

  • 38a [Chow line]. LEASH. Cute.
  • 3d [The thing I’m holding up]. THIS. Such a bizarre clue at the time, but it makes sense afterward.
  • 32d [Princess who rides a winged unicorn]. SHE-RA. I haven’t seen the new show, but my daughters attest to its quality.
  • 50d [Reading facilities]. LOO. That’s Reading, as in the city in England. Nice clue.

Entertaining puzzle from start to finish. Four stars.

I can’t think of a more appropriate puzzle theme for the following video. Here’s the cast of Hamilton performing “My Shot” at the White House (for the previous administration, duh).

Damon Gulczynski’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

Damon Gulczynski has today’s NYT, and it’s a more straightforward theme than we’ve seen the last few Thursdays:

  • 17A: Tome — FROM WHERE I STAND
  • 30A: Often — DECIMAL
  • 37A: Notable — POWERLESS
  • 49A: Goon — PERSIST
  • 64A: Request needed to understand four clues in the puzzle — GIVE ME SOME SPACE

Each clue needs a little more space – it isn’t “Tome”, it’s “To me” which gets you to FROM WHERE I STAND.  Often becomes “of ten”, “Notable” becomes “not able”, and “Goon” turns into “go on”.  This doesn’t feel like the most inventive of Thursday themes to me (and I feel like I’ve seen this idea before in some other venue), but the set of theme entries used for this particular iteration is nice.

Two notes:

  • The non-theme across fill on the top half here feels a little all over the place – ABES, NONO, STET, ABA, EDT, ADA – it’s a lot of short fill and proper names.   That said, I would totally watch IRISH FOPS open for DINGO CREEP
  • The down fill is much better in this grid – INFIDEL CORRIDA ANOINTS in the upper left, PROPANE RADICAL YES LET’S in the lower right, and lots in between to entertain — BEEFCAKE! LIZ LEMON!  If only the across fill felt in balance with this.

That’s it for today.  Have a great weekend!

Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crossword, “Second Person”–Jenni’s write-up

This puzzle is available straight (PDF or AcrossLite) and diagramless. I’m not much of a diagramless solver and Peter said it was a “severe challenge” so I stuck with the AcrossLite version. If you solved it as a diagramless, please share your experience in comments!

I figured out the theme as soon as I saw the grid and I still don’t understand the title.

FB 3/28, solution grid

The grid itself is part of the theme. We also have:

  • 16a [It’s celebrated on April 15]: JACKIE ROBINSON DAY.
  • 68a [Team in the news on April 15, 1947]: BROOKLYN DODGERS.

Jackie Robinson wore #42, which has been retired throughout baseball. The last player to wear it was Mariano Rivera, who was already an established star when they retired the number and who wore 42 in homage to Robinson. Jackie Robinson Day commemorates his debut on April 15, 1947, and on that day all the players wear 42. But Jackie was the first man to break the color barrier, right? So what’s up with the title?

A few other things:

  • Love the other long answers in this puzzle: VALET DE CHAMBREGEOMETRICALLYUNITED WE STAND, and HAZARDOUS WASTE.
  • The grid forces a lot of three-letter words. I liked the puzzle so much that I won’t complain about the Roman numeral math at 20a. We also had ESEETS, TRE, AOL, and GNU, and I don’t care. (Peter used GNU and I don’t care….sing along)
  • Back in the old NYT Forum days, someone objected to MISO being clued as [Kind of soup]. We get the whole thing at 58a.
  • 48d [Breathing tube] was evidently not TRACHEA. It took me a long time to see SNORKEL. Duh.
  • 78a [Clue room] is the LOUNGE – the game of Clue.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: I’d never heard the phrase VALET DE CHAMBRE, although I know some French and figured it out. I’ve also never heard of a Morepork OWL. They are found in New Zealand.

Morepork owl

Alex Eaton-Salners’s Universal Crossword, “Stuck in the Middle”—Judge Vic’s write-up

Alex Eaton-Salners’s Universal Crossword, 3/28/19 solution

Yet again, we are dealing with a Universal need to use asterisks, rather than circles or shaded boxes. As well as the need to save space via use of the slightly inapt phrase starred answers rather than the more precise answers to starred clues. But that’s OK. The Universal Crossword is still so much better than it was you-know-when!

Let’s look at the reveal first:

  • 60a [Like the countries in the starred answers, literally and figuratively] LANDLOCKED–OK, got the gimmick?
  • 16A [*1998 Robin Williams film] PATCH ADAMS–This is a totally adequate clue, and the mere thought of Robin Williams makes me smile and laugh inside. But that Patch Adams, he’s something else! Something special! I’d have been tempted to clue this answer as [Modern practitioner of psychoneuroimmunology]. The landlocked country here, of course, is Chad.
  • 23a [*OX, in love letters] A HUG AND A KISS–Inside of which Uganda may be seen to be trapped.
  • 38a [*City outside Joshua Tree National Park] TWENTY-NINE PALMS–Nepal.
  • 47a [*Heat map] THERMAL IMAGE–Mali wraps up this 10-12-15-12-10 theme. Which, as I might once have said, is a heap o’ letters. Never mind the known effects that a pair of 12’s has on any grid.There’s little left to remark upon, but I’ll make a list:
  • 10d [Nickel back?] MONTICELLO–This was a toughie for me. I’m not accustomed to seeing this name vertical.
  • 21d [Colorful, flowing garment: Var.] SARAPE–This is listed in Ginsberg 11 times. USA Today marked it as a variant all five times it used it–all during you-know-who’s tenure with that publication. The New York Times did not mark it as such in ’84, ’89 & ’94.
  • 25d [Based on theoretical deduction] A PRIORI
  • 29. [Conform] TOE THE LINE

3 stars.

Timothy Schenck’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

TOPHATS is the sole horizontal part of the theme, with four down answers beginning with hats. For a fairly basic theme type, this doesn’t have a lot of oomph. (CAP)NCRUNCH and (TAM)PABAY are clean, but the last two are one-word (BERET)TAS and randomly-in-the-infinitive-form (TOQUE)STION.

The rest of the grid is not exactly brimming with colourful phrases and answers: RESONANCE and ALLOWABLE are two of the longer non-theme answers, for example. We are provided with BELUGA and PANACHE. On the other hand, two endangered crossword-ese answers make an appearance: [Scandinavian rug], RYA, last in fashion ca. 1969; and [Ancient gathering place], STOA. Commit to memory if you haven’t til now.

Weirdest clue: [Emotional trauma consequence], SCAR. Physical trauma doesn’t leave scars?

2,25 Stars

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword, “Rate Change”—Andy’s review

BEQ puzzle 3.28.19

Today’s revealer is at 65d, KPH [Autobahn speed meas., or what letters are swapped in each theme answer]. Sure enough, each of the three theme answers takes a normal phrase and replaces a “K” with a “PH.” Like so:

  • 20a, INSTANT PHARMA [Just-add-water pills?]. Instant karma.
  • 40a, STROPHE OF GENIUS [Ode stanza rapped by Wu-Tang’s GZA?]. Stroke of genius. GZA is also known as “The Genius.”
  • 55a, MORPH AND MINDY [Show that changes all of comic Kaling’s costars?]. “Mork and Mindy”.

Funny theme clues as always.

Some other notes:

  • Loved the long down entries in this one:
    • 3d, JUNIOR PROM with a great clue [Even that seniors typically don’t attend].
    • 8d teaches us a fun fact about EMMA STONE [Highest-paid actress of 2017].
    • 32d, UTILITY MAN [Baseball player who can play many positions].
    • 36d, SORE SPOTS [Sensitive topics?] — works with or without the question mark, I think.
  • 51a, [Candy vehicle of the ’70s] isn’t some kind of truck, but rather SCTV (John Candy).
  • Always nice to see 44a, ESAI Morales clued in a different/recent way, as in [Morales of Netflix’s “Ozark”].
  • Topical clue for 4d, GMAT [Exam where your rich parents might bribe to raise to the max score of 800: Abbr.].
  • Very clever clue for 7d, BUNTS [Hits close to home?].

It was lovely seeing/meeting so many of you in Stamford this past weekend! I hope to see many of you at The Indie 500 in June, and I’ll see you all back here next week!

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12 Responses to Thursday, March 28, 2019

  1. Scott says:

    NYT was fun. I kept reading notable as no table which confused me for awhile.

  2. WhiskyBill says:


    I found the Fireball title confusing, too. It suddenly occurred to me that Jackie Robinson might have played second base. Online resources indicate that he started with the Dodgers at first base, played second for a number of years, but also played at third base, and in the outfield. Apparently he won his MVP while playing second base, so maybe that’s it?

  3. Joe Pancake says:

    NYT: If anybody would like to see a picture of this puzzle’s constructor flexing and read a gripping account of ACPT weekend, please visit my blog:


  4. GlennG says:

    I ended up doing the Across Lite version of this Fireball too, given the level of cluing and words involved would be what I would expect out of a regular Fireball crossword (and it was). As a note, you can lay out diagramless puzzles in Across Lite by using : instead of . in the GRID section, but for some reason it only lets you print the puzzle or convert it to regular and doesn’t allow you to solve.

    I played with diagramless puzzles a couple of years ago, but I found like about every other variety puzzle I run into that the level of difficulty wrt the cluing was too high to be able to pick up on handling the gimmick. And as with most, I really couldn’t find anything that was “Monday” level with accompanying answers to be able to learn.

  5. christopher brisson says:

    WSJ: Could someone kindly explain how the answer to “T choice” [11D] is “extra large”? I am totally at a loss for the connection. Thanks! [The only T’s I can think of are T-square, T-bone, and “The T” in Boston (the subway system, our nation’s oldest), none of which make sense in relation to “extra-large.”]

  6. I haven’t done any diagramless puzzles in a while, but I decided to accept the challenge…although after getting a few fragments I did have to look at the hints for starting square and symmetry (!). Spent entirely too much time with it because it was great fun! I was led astray by April 15 being Patriots Day and close to Emancipation Day. And then I did also wonder about the title.

  7. Peter Berardi says:

    Re Mike Shenk’s WSJ “Jump Shot” puzzle: How is “XOO” a losing line in a game? A losing line in a baseball game is “OOO”, that is, being no-hit, other than that, you’ve lost me.

    • Tic-tac-toe. It’s one of the various three-letter tic-tac-toe combos that come up in puzzles now and again like OOX, XXO, etc. I’ve never been a huge fan of those answers and “losing line” has never felt totally apt without a “maybe” or some other qualifier. It’s not a winning line, but you could have XOO and still end up in a draw.

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